February 28, 2007

Mentor. To “ment“? That looked strangely like torment… Hm. What does this mean?

Ancient Greek mythology tells us Mentor (Mentes) was the son of Alcumus and was given charge over Odysseus’ son whilst the erstwhile hero ventured forth. The title has come to mean “trusted friend, counselor or teacher, a more experienced person.” The modern inference has changed mentoring into less of an intentional role and more a standard result of a life well lived.

Why do I care about it right now? What’s the big deal about being a mentor or being mentored? Is the deal more about the attitude of the mentee than the ment-or?

Consider if you will that we are always in the company of those who will teach us. Many times we find ourselves influenced and led by concepts, movements or individuals with or without our conscious involvement.

I learn all kinds of great things by watching TV . I know botox lips will always look “overdone”. I know the Oscars are a waste of time. I know high temperature will cause a fingerprint to be indelibly imprinted on the bottom of a soda can. Yeah, that was last nights SVU. But does this knowledge benefit me? Well, most likely I will never be in a place to want botox, I find the Oscars repulsive (have for years) and I have no foreseeable plans to commit a crime, torch the vehicle and have to remove any and all soda cans which may or may not have my fingerprints on them. Useless knowledge. Brain cells overloaded by a plethora of the sublimely ridiculous.

We can all chuckle together about useless knowledge. But consider with me perhaps our fellowship and friendships are riddled with the same pitfalls.

How carefully do I select my “inner circle” of acquaintances? Or do I just let relationships transpire organically and at whatever point things get hinky (yes, that’s the technical term) I bail? To whom do I look for direction, wisdom and insight when my own methods have given me nada?

I am a fairly independent sort of person with the ability to problem solve reasonably well on my own. In my life I have had exactly zero people offer to “come along side me” to “raise me up”. Excellent use of churchianity verbage don’t you think? I can’t quite comprehend it. I know Timothy was “discipled” by Paul. What’s the difference between that and mentoring?

Disciple. One who follows after the spiritual/physical/intellectual/moral/emotional direction of another. One who embraces the beliefs and convictions of another as though these beliefs and convictions are their own.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Huh? How do you “make” someone embrace your beliefs and convictions? Doesn’t this seem rather like setting someone up for a task at which they will ultimately fail? Doesn’t the concept of personal belief and conviction lie in the realm of self-responsibility? Only G-d sees the heart and only He is qualified to judge it! Or is that more of the christian cop-out for holding each other accountable?

Another version says “teach” and still another says “instruct”. One translation (my personal favorite David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible) uses the Hebrew word talmidim which carries with it the understanding of one who is taught, instructed, guided. Intentionally, purposefully, pointedly. Not by chance or by unconscious transfer of ideas and concepts as seen in eastern mysticism and advocated by every self-help book I’ve ever had the misfortune of being subjected to.

Notice the difference? We are called to go out and “make disciples”, teach and instruct with purpose and clarity. We are not specifically instructed to go out and be “mentors” or live well among the masses.

We may, through the course of instruction provide an example for living but our purpose is less to be an example and more to point others toward the Perfect Example of our Messiah. However, the goal is not to create little followers of me who live as I do, but to instruct others in the ways of Yeshua so they will have the awesome privilege of living in the way that most accurately reflects Him.

I believe this is why those who teach carry a heavier burden of responsibility.

The root word of talmid (im makes a Hebrew word plural by the way) is lamad which means to train, chastise, goad. Those who wish to take on the task of being trained are doing so for a purpose. Lamad is the bridge between instruction and application. The book on the shelf is carried to the table by the teacher. It is expounded upon by the teacher. The information is disseminated and ingested by the hearer and the student. It is through personal ownership of the previously mentioned information one becomes talmid and joins with the talmidim.

I have a dear friend who has asked quite a few people to “mentor her” in various areas of her life. There’s a mentor for dating, one for housekeeping, one for spiritual advice, one for prayer, one for financial management and there’s even a mentor for cooking.

Now, I understand she’s young and eager for instruction. However…. The desire for G-dly examples in our lives should never be one which supersedes the calling we have to first be disciples and secondly husbands/wives, fathers/mothers, pastors, teachers, intercessors, good stewards and damn fine cooks.

Only through a passionate pursuit of the concepts, principles and tenets of our faith which accurately reflect the life lived by Yeshua and exemplified through the lives of those who patterned their lives according to His teaching can we possibly begin to consider the side issues of interpersonal relating, congregational responsibilities and communal blessings.

In short, it behooves us far greater to pursue teaching the ways of Christ and instructing those who are weaker than ourselves than to merely walk as though the example of our life is sufficient for instruction and adequate for the raising up of the next generation.